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Charter Member – Dr Clair Isbister CBE, OBE

Jean Sinclair (known as Clair) Isbister (1915 – 2008) was a prominent paediatrician, with appearances on television and radio as well as writing books.

Clair was dux of St George Girls High School and received a scholarship to Sydney University where she studied medicine. On graduation, she completed her internship at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Children’s Hospital.

Dr Isbister worked at the Children’s Hospital and at Tresilian under the founder, Margaret Harper. She spoke on radio on many medical topics, but often on child birth, breastfeeding and childcare. The broadcasting policy at the time meant she remained anonymous, but her segments were known as “The Lady Doctor”.

In 1948 she was appointed Consultant Paediatrician at Royal North Shore Hospital. Her work which showed that newborns were contracting infections from hospital and not from their mothers led to significant changes at many maternity hospitals.

Dr Isbister’s work also led to teaching breastfeeding techniques to new mothers, and she implemented changes in caring for premature babies in the days before reliable incubators. She also instigated the first Preparation for Parenthood classes given by medical professionals.

Later she worked with the Asthma Foundation and became highly knowledgeable about childhood allergies and asthma.

She also wrote a number of books, including “Breastfeeding for Modern Mothers”. A staunch conservative, she opposed premarital sex and abortion, among other concerns.

In 1969 she was awarded an OBE for services to mothers and babies, and in 1976 was awarded a CBE for services to medicine.


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